Home / Industry / What is Karnataka govt going to do about Bengaluru’s power shortage?

Bengaluru: M.G. Balakrishna, an industrialist who owns a gas cyclinder manufacturing plant in Nelamangala, a Bengaluru suburb, is running behind schedule in meeting his orders. Reason: long power outages.

Since August, his plant has hardly had electricity supply for more than an hour or two a day. And now two of his orders—5,000 cylinders to Indian Oil Corp. Ltd and 5,000 to Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd due for supply in August and September, respectively—are running behind deadline.

“I am yet to start the production for October. If it is going to be like this, people like me will have to shut down business," said Balakrishna.

Long power outages have become a new normal in India’s information technology capital Bengaluru as the hydel-power dependent state’s power generation has hit a decade low, thanks to poor rainfall this monsoon.

The state’s 21 power-generation stations are producing only 4,369 MW daily against a total capacity of 9,021 MW as on 19 October, according to the energy department. The total power demand from the state--industrial and household—is more than 12,000MW, of which almost 25% is consumed by Bengaluru.

Despite the crisis, the government’s desperate search for new ways to shore up power—it has two crucial elections and a global meet to woo high-profile investors, all lined up within the next four months—is getting nowhere.

Although the state wants to tap 1,000MW from southern power-generation sources, there is no power corridor available for Bengaluru until November, said state energy minister D.K. Shivakumar. The state failed to evince interest from the northern regions when it floated tender to buy 10,000 MW of power on a short-term basis recently, he said, adding that the ministry will call for a fresh tender with an eye on private power generators from southern states, mainly Tamil Nadu.

But the government is not sure about the response to this tender too, as the Tamil Nadu government a week ago banned private generators from supplying electricity outside the state. The decision came close on the heels of Karnataka’s attempt to shore up additional power during the upcoming season of elections to panchayat and legislative council, where the ruling Congress will be fighting against the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Incidentally, some political analysts suggest, AIADMK is moving close to an alliance with the BJP.

To tide over the power crisis, Karnataka is also thinking about purchasing another 1000 MW on a medium-term basis and 2,000 MW for a long-term duration. Also, the state is building what is considered as the world’s largest solar plant in 12,000 acres in Tumakuru district.

But all of this will take some time to realize, according to the minister, and the only way to tackle the immediate crisis would be an intervention from the central government. For this, Shivakumar was in Delhi over the weekend, but failed to get an appointment with BJP-led Union government’s power minister Piyush Goyal, according to a report by The Times of India.

Meanwhile, the power outages in the city are likely to continue. On Friday, Bengaluru’s power distribution utility (BESCOM) re-introduced scheduled power cuts in select areas in the city. The government has also asked the industries to take a power holiday starting 26 October.

“We have requested (industries to declare) one-day power holiday. For that, we have called them and we have given a schedule. This has become necessary for us. We have stored water for four months. We can use it all for power, but that will hurt us in summer," said the minister.

Industry associations such as FKCCI (Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industries) said they all agree to such a proposal. But the government could have been better prepared, said M.C. Dinesh, vice-president of FKCCI.

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